CCIQ urges flexibility on penalty rates
CCIQ (Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland) has stepped up its calls on the Federal Government to change its stance on penalty rates in our submission to the Inquiry being held by the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations into the Fair Work Amendment (Small Business – Penalty Rates Exemption) Bill 2012 (the Bill).
The Bill would ensure that a modern award cannot require a business employing fewer than 20 fulltime employees in the restaurant and catering or retail industries to pay penalty rates to an employee unless they have worked more than 10 hours in a 24 hour period, or more than 38 hours total, in that week.
CCIQ supports the Bill as a common sense amendment to the Fair Work Act that would provide some much needed relief for Queensland small businesses operating for extended trading hours across a seven day week.
While employers tell us that their employees want to work weekends and evenings, they simply cannot afford to pay up to three times the normal award rate.
Consequently, trading during these times leave many small businesses in a difficult position, as their choices are often to simply close, operate on a restricted basis, put fewer staff on, or to ‘run a loss’.
These options are not acceptable in a modern economy.
That’s why CCIQ believes that the proposed changes need to go beyond hospitality and retail: we know that many Queensland businesses across all industries are doing it tough, and that the additional costs and inflexibility imposed by the new modern awards are exacerbating already difficult economic conditions.
Moreover, CCIQ knows that consumer expectations are increasingly of a 24/7 trading environment – limiting the capacity of businesses to trade in the evenings and on weekends is significantly undermining the capacity of businesses to compete in a global marketplace.
The continued applicability of penalty rates, which emanate from a ‘9-5, Monday to Friday’ conception of the working week, is impractical and expensive, and inconsistent in a constantly evolving business environment.
If we want Australia to be recognised by business as a dynamic, modern economy that enables businesses to compete in an increasingly global environment and meet consumer needs and expectations, then we must remove those regulations that stifle their capacity to do so.
Accordingly, the Federal Government must take this opportunity to change its position on penalty rates.